As the sun shines brightly here in Berne and we are welcoming the beginning of summer on the solstice, cooling herbs can help us to refresh and balance our bodies and minds during the summer heat. 🌞
As working farmers who are out in the field and garden on hot and sunny days, we welcome the wisdom of nature to show us which plants will be most beneficial to our well-being. When you start paying close attention to the seasons and the plants that grow around you, you will notice that what you find in nature is what your body needs the most.
In June and July, our garden offers lush harvests of cooling herbs like peppermint, lemon balm and other plants to stay cool and recover from the sun’s bright shine.
We also love sharing our cooling herbal concoctions during our summer retreats, especially after a day of herb walks in the sunny garden.
Before we get into the herbs, please make sure to always protect yourself from heat and sun exposure by wearing a hat with a wide rim, sun lotion, loose and light-colored clothes, drinking plenty of water and herbal infusions, and staying out of the sun during excessive heat.
The Power of Cooling Herbs
Cooling herbs support our bodies when we are in need of a change in body temperature. Opening up the pores to promote sweating is one way to cool the body down. Other herbs are cooling through their energetic properties.
Cooling herbs help to:
- Regulate body temperature, creating a cooling effect when ingested or applied topically and helping to revitalize the skin and organs.
- Soothe, calm, and refresh your body and mind with their aromas and astringent citrus flavors.
- Offer health benefits, like antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that support our body’s ability to restore itself after working outside in the heat.
- Connect us to nature, when we harvest the perfectly timed offerings from the plants.
Here are 5 cooling herbs that we love to use on the farm during the hot summer months.
1. Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
What is Peppermint?
There are many types of peppermint – peppermint, apple mint, strawberry mint, chocolate mint, mountain mint just to name a few – and they all offer the same energetic property of being cooling to the body. Many love peppermint for the refreshing and energizing smell and taste in drinks and food. Gardeners know the plant for growing vigorously and happily in any environment. If you like to add peppermint to your garden, it’s a good idea to keep the plant contained in a large pot, as it can overtake a small garden space very quickly.
Peppermint’s Health Benefits
Beyond its delightful uplifting flavor and aroma, peppermint also offers a range of healing benefits:
- Supports digestion as a carminative
- Eases tension headaches with a drop of peppermint oil massaged into the temples
- Contains menthol which provides a cooling sensation when applied topically, making it an excellent remedy in balms or salves to soothe muscle aches and tension
How to Cool Off with Peppermint
- Fresh peppermint (of any kind) makes a lovely addition to your water bottle on a hot day
- Sore Muscle Comfort: Our muscle liniment can be applied to achy muscles and combined with a massage oil for extra deep tissue healing
- Lemon Peppermint Butter: massage into tired feet and rough hands to offer cooling rejuvenation and care.
2. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
What is Lemon Balm?
Lemon balm is part of the mint family and a perennial native to the Mediterranean. Lemon balm is widely cultivated for its lemony fragrance and medicinal properties in home gardens and herb farms. She grows in clumps and has heart-shaped leaves, a slightly toothed edge, and small clusters of white or pale yellow flowers that bloom in summer. Her biggest offering is her calming, yet uplifting energy to an overwhelmed mind.
Lemon Balm Health Benefits
In ancient times, lemon balm was used as a symbol of good fortune. Today lemon balms is most often used for:
- Cooling the body
- Soothing the mind and promoting relaxation
- Uplifting the spirit during dark and challenging times
- Supporting restful sleep
- Aiding digestion
How to Stay Cool with Lemon Balm
- Just like peppermint, lemon balm is a wonderful herb to add to your water bottle to add a delicious lemony flavor. Great for gardeners working out in the sun. The herb helps to cool down and the yummy taste encourages you to keep drinking more to stay well hydrated.
- Blossom & Bloom Tea (iced!): use 2 teaspoons of loose tea per cup, pour boiling water over the herb, and cover. Steep for 10-15 minutes to bring out the full flavor. Let cool, add ice to taste.
3. Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
What is Hibiscus?
Hibiscus is a beautiful, vibrant flower that graces gardens with orange, red, yellow and white hues. The blossoms taste like tangy lemon zest and can be added to iced teas and cold drinks, jams, jelly, or syrup.
Hibiscus Health Benefits
Besides admiring hibiscus for its beautiful flowers, we turn to hibiscus for:
- It's antioxidant qualities
- Supporting cardiovascular health
- Its anti-inflammatory properties
- Its tangy, tart, and lemony flavor!
How to Beat the Heat with Hibiscus
- Summer Hibiscus Lemonade: I love to combine chilled hibiscus tea with lemon or lime juice, maple syrup, or honey and top it off with sparkling water. Add fresh mint and/or lemon balm to garnish.
- My favorite Hibiscus Tea Blend: combine 1 part of each hibiscus, linden flowers and marshmallow root. Use 4 tablespoons of loose herbs for 1 quart of boiling water. Let steep for 3 hours, strain, and chill. This blend is not only cooling but also calming to the mind and moistening to the body, the perfect tea to sip on hot sunny days!
4. Sumac (Rhus coriaria)
What is Sumac?
Sumac refers to several species of flowering plants hailing from the Middle East and Mediterranean regions and now naturalized in the US. Sumac grows as a shrub or small tree and the reddish-purple flower cones can be dried and ground up into sumac powder. Sumac has a tangy, lemony, and tart flavor and is widely used in Turkish cuisine. The fresh flower stalk makes a nice cooling summer tea and the spice can be used in cooking instead of lemon juice.
Sumac Health benefits
Sumac and sumac powder are used in the apothecary and in the kitchen and offer:
- Antioxidant qualities
- Anti-inflammatory qualities
- Digestive support
How to Use Sumac to Cool Off
Sumac lemonade: add a sprinkle of Sumac powder to your homemade lemonade for a tangy twist. The combination of lemon and sumac creates a refreshing and cooling beverage. If you have access to fresh flowers, use them instead of the powder.
Sumac seasoning: sprinkle sumac powder over fresh fruits like watermelon, pineapple, or mango for a burst of tanginess. Sumac powder is also delicious on popcorn combined with nutritional yeast.
5. Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora)
What is Lemon Verbena?
A deciduous shrub, lemon verbena’s potent fragrance and flavor is native to South America. Its long, slender, bright green leaves emit their lovely citrus scent when touched or crushed and are the primary part of the plant used for culinary and herbal purposes.
Lemon Verbena Health Benefits
Lemon verbena, aside from its natural cooling properties akin to its lemony sister, lemon balm, provides:
- Relaxation support
- Antioxidant properties
- Anti-inflammatory effects
How to Stay Cool with Lemon Verbena
A spritz of lemon verbena hydrosol is a heavenly way to cool your face and body on a hot and sizzling day. Hydrosols are the distilled cellular water of plants and carry the complete fragrance and energetic properties of the herb.
Adding a few crushed leaves of lemon verbena to your water bottle or any kind of lemonade will uplift your drink into the upper realms of citrusy delight!
I hope you enjoy these herbs in all the different ways, whether to cool off on a hot summer day, to sip a soothing cup of tea in the evening, or for any of the other healing modalities that the plants offer to us. 🌱